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Archive for April, 2020

 

 

And just what might that decision be?

A. Your food choices to stay healthy and energized?

B. The tasks you’ll complete to use your time wisely?

C. The attitudes you’ll adopt to influence your emotions?

Author/pastor Charles Swindoll chose C: “I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude” (1).

Now why would that be? “Attitude is that ‘single string’ that keeps me going or cripples my progress,” he added.

Zig Ziglar explained the impact of attitude this way:

 

 

Science actually supports such statements.

According to an article in the British Medical Journal, “There is not a tissue or an organ in the body that is not influenced by the attitude of the mind and spirit” (2).

So the question becomes, how do we foster a positive attitude when circumstances conspire against us, or our days are a treadmill of monotonous routine, or we’re just glass-half-empty-kind-of-people by genetics?

The fact is, it’s still a matter of choice. And that choice alone wields great effect because:

“The inward impacts the outward” (3).

This principle is even evident in nature. Did you know that the color of silk can be altered depending on what is fed to the silkworms? Red dye in their food results in pink silk. Even the worms turn pink.

 

 

What we feed our minds and spirits colors our attitudes. We can choose to feast on the delights of God’s grace—his love, provision, promises, and blessings—or we can gorge ourselves on pig slop—disappointments, hurts, injustice, and the failures of others.

 

 

The Apostle Paul provided the perfect example while imprisoned in Rome. He never referred to himself as prisoner of Festus or Caesar or a victim of the Sanhedrin’s unjust treatment. He called himself a prisoner of the Lord (Ephesians 4:1), and saw his detainment as helping to spread the good news about Jesus (Philippians 1:12).

Paul also told his readers to pattern their lives after his (3:17). Years ago I wrote Wow! next to that verse in my Bible. Such a claim. But the book of Acts provides the evidence of his selflessness, integrity, and passion for Christ.

So when he wrote to the Philippian Christians from prison to rejoice in the Lord always (4:4), we can be sure he was choosing the same habit. When he recommended they focus on what’s excellent and praiseworthy (4:8), it’s a given that’s what he was doing too.

 

 

And now neuroscience has proven what God inspired Paul to write centuries ago: think positive thoughts and the brain will produce serotonin, which creates a sense of well being and helps the brain function at is best.

Think on negative thoughts and the brain produces cortisol, diminishing brain function and even causing depression (4).

 

https://www.azquotes.com/quote/662828

 

But controlling our thoughts is not easy.  Here are several strategies I’ve found to be helpful:

 

1. Keep in God’s Word.

We’ve considered this important step before (5); it’s number one for a reason.

 

2. Keep coming back to the center.

Ever play tennis or watch it on TV? After every shot a player returns to the center of the court, so he’s not caught too far afield when the ball comes back. When you find your thoughts crouched in a back corner, come back to the Center: Jesus. Keep your mind happily occupied on all the ways He is excellent and praiseworthy.

 

 

3.  Keep a record.

We can train ourselves to see God all around us as we keep a journal of God’s faithfulness. I began mine in 1983, in response to a Bible study (6), and now there are over 1300 entries. Just the weight of that notebook encourages my spirit.

How about a gratitude journal, to record at least one thing every day for which you’re thankful? I didn’t start that one until three years ago. It’s a delightful exercise to review God’s gifts of the day and choose one to highlight (7). It’s also fun—and spirit lifting—to look back and remember previous gifts.

 

 

Slowly but surely, the most amazing thing happens. Our joy begins to expand and we start to become transformed into our best selves—with an increased ability to live freely and enjoy God’s presence—just by choosing a better attitude through the way we think (Romans 12:2 NLT).

 

 

Notes:

  1. Strengthening Your Grip, p. 207
  2. Quoted by Selwyn Hughes in Every Day Light, p. 132.
  3. Charles Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 335.
  4. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201108/happy-brain-happy-life
  5. https://nancyaruegg.com/2018/08/23/perfect-trouble/
  6. See  https://nancyaruegg.com/2012/11/12/proving-gods-presence/   for the full story.
  7. The post that started my gratitude journal: https://nancyaruegg.com/2017/03/30/eating-live-frogs-and-other-blessings/

 

Art & photo credits:  http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wallpaperflare.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pickpik.com; http://www.heartlight.org.

 

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Shakespeare was right when he wrote about “the uncertain glory of an April day.”*  A balmy afternoon this time of year can quickly turn rainy and cold, right?

However.  There is certain glory–even on the dreary days–if we look for it.

That’s what I attempted to do this week, and in celebration of God’s springtime glories, turned my observations into haiku.  (April is Poetry Month, you may remember.)

Following are a few samples.

 

 

Early Spring

Tall, brave daffodils

Stand amidst gathering snow.

Season-confusion.

 

 

Rainy Afternoon

A scatter of books

Takes me away from the gloom;

My corner shines bright.

 

(Our middle granddaughter, 2015)

 

Cloud Skyscapes

Pushed into mounds or

Pulled by the wind into wisps–

Never the same twice.

 

 

Trees

Stable.  Protective.

Majestic.  Strong.  Maker of

Trees is all of these.

 

 

Raindrops on Tree Branches

Sparkling spangles

Cling in a row. Beauty shouts

Praise into silence.

 

 

Young Robin

Lights on nearby perch,

Questions me with keen eye:

“And what might you be?”

 

 

Cherry and Pear Trees

On the avenue,

Dressed in pastel lace, dancers

Waltz on warm breezes.

 

 

 

Worship in the Woods

Newly unfurled, they

Flutter and flounce, clap and laugh.

Leaves praise their Maker.

(Isaiah 55:12)

 

 

Now it’s your turn to share in the fun.  Just compose three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables respectively.

When you’re finished, please share the results in the comment section below.

 

 

And Happy Spring, Happy Poetry Month to all!

 

*from The Two Gentlemen of Verona

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxfuel.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.rawpixel.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.pickpic.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net (2); http://www.pikrepo.com, http://www.canva.com.

 

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If we could gather in large crowds right now, and if our plans had included a baseball game yesterday, we would have witnessed in interesting phenomenon: every player wearing the same number—42.

 

 

Yesterday was Jackie Robinson Day, when all major league teams celebrate his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers, April 15, 1947, wearing #42. As you may know, for the preceding seventy years, all players had been white.  Jackie Robinson was African-American.

 

 

You may also know how such an opportunity opened up for Jackie, through president and general manager for the Dodgers, Branch Rickey.

 

 

But perhaps you didn’t know (because many books and films have omitted this information) both Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson were Christian men of high integrity.

So what inspired Branch Rickey to put his faith in action by fighting against racial prejudice? It began with an incident in 1906.

Rickey coached the college baseball team at Ohio Wesleyan. When they traveled to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame, his star catcher Charles Thomas, a black player, was denied lodging with the rest of the team at the Oliver Hotel.

Rickey asked if Thomas could stay in his room on a cot. With reluctance, management agreed. Later that evening when Rickey returned to their room, he found Thomas crying and rubbing his skin.

“If only I could make it white; if only I could make it white,” he sobbed.

Rickey made a vow to God that night. If he ever had a chance to combat racial prejudice, he would take it (1).

Not until 1942 did the opportunity present itself, when Rickey was hired to manage the Dodgers. The timing seemed perfect.

 

 

All races of Americans were fighting against the racist Nazi regime in Europe—even as racism continued in the States. The incongruity was obvious to anyone who considered the evidence.

Rickey spent two years contemplating the impact of integration on baseball and looking for the best candidate—a man of athletic ability and godly faith who could withstand the maelstrom of trouble sure to come.

Finally, in 1945, Rickey found Jackie. Not only could he play ball with the best of them, he was a strong Christian.

 

 

The two men met and Rickey offered Robinson a place on the team. He warned the recruit that racially motivated abuse would likely occur. “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back,” Rickey told him (2).

That meant Jackie could not retaliate. Only then might their experiment succeed, so more players of other races would be able to join major league teams. And once the color-barrier in sports was broken, perhaps change would come in business, entertainment, education, and more.

In October 1945, Branch Rickey told his friend and well-known broadcaster Lowell Thomas he was about to announce the signing of an African-American to the Dodgers.

“Branch! All H-___-___-L will break loose!” Thomas cried.

“No, Lowell,” Rickey responded, “all heaven will rejoice” (3).

Thomas’s words seemed prophetic. That first year, Jackie Robinson suffered vehement loathing—ridicule, defamation of character, death threats, and more–not just from baseball fans or opposing teams. His teammates added their own abuse with snide remarks and exclusion.

How could Jackie withstand such contempt day after day, week after week?

He prayed—on his knees—asking God for strength to resist fighting back, and Jackie trusted God to guide him and sustain him.

 

 

“I can testify to the fact it was a lot harder to turn the other cheek and refuse to fight back than it would have been to exercise a normal reaction,” he later wrote. “But it works, because sooner or later it brings a sense of shame to those who attack you. And that sense of shame is often the beginning of progress” (4).

Progress was enhanced by the support of Leo Durocher, Dodgers’ player-manager, Ed Stankey, second baseman, and PeeWee Reese, shortstop and team captain.

 

(PeeWee Reese)

 

By the next season, a few black players were hired by other teams and two more by the Dodgers. Pressure on Jackie eased.

Years later, Jackie wrote of Branch Rickey: “Others have insinuated that he is not sincere because he speaks so frequently and so emotionally about the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It is the way of some people to make light of sincerity of this kind, because they themselves are too small to speak, think, and live big” (5).

As for Jackie, sportswriter Red Smith wrote, “[Jackie Robinson] would not be defeated. Not by the other team and not by life. The word for Jackie Robinson is ‘unconquerable’” (6).

 

______________________________

 

We too can be unconquerable in our challenges if we remember:

 

 

Jackie Robinson showed us the way.

 

Notes:

  1. https://godreports.com/2013/04/jackie-robinson-how-god-used-two-faith-filled-believers-to-desegregate-baseball/
  2. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/jackie-robinson-100th-birthday-his-faith-in-god-was-the-secret-ingredient-to-his-success
  3. https://www.investors.com/news/management/leaders-and-success/branch-rickey-revolutionized-baseball-in-more-ways-than-one/
  4. https://www.foxnews.com/opinion/jackie-robinson-100th-birthday
  5. https://sportsspectrum.com/sport/baseball/2017/07/18/jackie-robinsons-faith-god-detailed-new-book
  6. https://goodnewsmag.org/2011/03/the-life-and-faith-of-jackie-robinson/

 

Other sources:

http://www.davidprince.com/2015/04/15/the-ferocious-christian-gentleman-behind-jackie-robinsons-famous-moment-2/

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/04/11/jackie-robinson-a-man-of-faith-column/2075367/

 

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.militarytimes.com; en.wikipedia.org; http://www.canva.com; www,wikimedia.com; http://www.canva.com.

 

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Preparations were complete for the Passover meal. Jesus and the disciples had gathered to celebrate together.

Perhaps they were beginning to recline around the table when Jesus said, “I’ve been looking forward to eating this Passover feast with you, before I suffer.”

Surely the disciples froze for a moment.

Why would their Master be talking about suffering now, as they were about to share this sacred meal?

Yes, he had mentioned it before—even spoke several times about being killed one day (Matthew 16:21). But such an actuality seemed impossible. He was the Messiah after all—come to establish God’s kingdom on earth as the Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6-7). How could Jesus do that if he was dead?

 

 

The disciples undoubtedly tried to ignore such puzzling and gruesome thoughts, wanting to focus on the beloved celebration of Passover. But a few moments later Jesus startled them again.

“One of you is going to betray me.”

Preposterous. Who would do such a thing to their beloved Master? Yet Jesus had never been wrong about anything before. What could he mean?

And then a third troubling statement soon followed: “I will be with you only a little longer.”

Unthinkable. They had been together for three years—over a thousand days. They had listened to his teaching—wiser than Solomon’s—and witnessed his miracles—greater than Elijah’s.

 

 

Their lives had been changed by what they’d heard and seen. And now Jesus was leaving?

Perhaps after three hard sayings the disciples began to look at one another with uncertainty and fear on their faces. Something was wrong, but understanding eluded them.*

And Jesus, knowing their thoughts before they did, spoke a proclamation that is familiar to us today.

“Stop letting your hearts be troubled.”

I wonder if he paused and pointedly made eye contact with each one to focus their attention on what he would say next.

“You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).

 

 

What did they believe about God? Their scriptures (our Old Testament) taught them much about the Lord Almighty, including:

  • God is in control
  • He knows what he is doing
  • He exercises his unlimited power with wisdom and love
  • God is good (1)

And what did they know and believe of Jesus?

  • He too was good
  • He demonstrated divine power, wisdom, and love
  • He was the Son of God
  • God’s honor and glory was bestowed on him (2)

The choice was up to the disciples. They could continue to stew in anxious thoughts or they could stop, and choose to believe in their powerful and perfect Lord Jesus.

They could choose faith over fear.

 

 

And the same choice confronts us today. We can believe that:

  • God is enthroned in heaven and rules over all (Psalm 103:19)—or believe the lie that the world is spinning out of control.
  • The God of the universe is on our side, and nothing could possibly come against us and win (Romans 8:31)—or believe the lie that suffering proves God’s lack of caring.
  • All his glorious attributes (those mentioned above as well as many more) are always at work to achieve his good purpose (Romans 8:28)—or believe the lie that no good can come out of trouble (3).

We can also believe in Jesus, who has proven himself our trustworthy Savior, who is called Faithful and True, because:

  • He lives to intercede for us. Is it likely the Father will ignore his Son’s pleas? Never.
  • He died and rose again that we might live forever with him. The promise of eternal Life can provide luminous light even on the darkest of days.
  • He will come again and take us to be with him (4). We’d do well to remember:

 

 

And when we choose to trust, tranquility follows.

 

_____________________________________________

 

 

*The events of the Last Supper mentioned here are based on John 13.

 

Scriptures referenced:

  1. Isaiah 14:24; Job 11:7-9; Daniel 2:20; Jeremiah 31:3; Exodus 34:6
  2. Acts 10:38; Matthew 8:27; Mark 6:2; Matthew 14:14 and 33; Matthew 3:17 and 17:5
  3. Psalm 103:19; Romans 8:31 and 8:28
  4. 1 John 4:14; Revelation 19:11; Hebrews 7:25; Romans 8:34; 1 Peter 1:3-4; John 14:3

 

Art and photo credits:  http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.canva.com (2).

 

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Today’s post is an acrostic poem (I use that term lightly!) of praise and prayer, based on the phrase, “peace in the midst of the storm.” For each letter, I chose scriptural affirmations that seemed especially appropriate for this time of upheaval and uncertainty.  (You’ll find the references at the end of the post.)

Why the Bible? There is no better source of hope and strength.

Abraham Lincoln expressed it this way during his time of trouble:

 

(Photo taken in1863, in the midst of the Civil War.)

 

I believe that the Bible is the best gift

That God has ever given to man.

All the good from the Savior of the world

is communicated to us through this book.

I have been driven many times to my knees

By the overwhelming conviction

That I had nowhere else to go.

 

While collecting biblical truths that apply to our current situation, I felt my own heart uplifted.

May the following be an encouragement to you as well.

 

 

Praise be to the Lord our mighty Rock; from

Everlasting to everlasting he is God.

As we cast our cares on him, he will sustain us.

Call on him when in distress and he will answer; his

Ears are attentive to our cry.

 

 

I trust in your unfailing love, O Lord.

Nothing is too hard for you.

 

The Lord watches over the way of the righteous.

He performs miracles and displays his power among the people.

Every promise he has fulfilled; not one has failed.

 

 

My shield is God Most High.

In him I take refuge.

Do not fear; he is with us…and will help us. He will

Satisfy our needs and strengthen our frame.

Truly, our souls can find rest in God; our salvation comes from him.

 

 

Our Lord is gracious, righteous, and full of compassion; the

Fruit of his righteousness is peace.

 

Those who know his name trust in him, for he has never

forsaken those who seek him.

He hides us in the shadow of his wings; the

Eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,

who hope in his unfailing love.

 

 

Send us your light and your faithful care, O God. Let them guide us

day by day.

Thank you for always leading us in triumph.

Our enemies you will trample; with you we will gain the victory.

Righteous and kind are all your ways and all your works.

My hope is in you.

 

 

Scriptures used:

  • Peace–Psalm 144:1; 90:2; 55:22; 86:7; 34:15b
  • In–Psalm 13:5a; Jeremiah 32:17b
  • The–Psalm 1:6; 77:14; Joshua 23:14
  • Midst–Psalm 7:10a; 16:1b; Isaiah 41:10; 58:11; Psalm 62:1
  • Of–Psalm 116:5; Isaiah 32:17
  • The–Psalm 9:10; 17:8b; 33:18
  • Storm–Psalm 43:3a  ISV; 2 Corinthians 2:14; Psalm 60:12; Psalm 25:21b

 

Photo credits:  http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.geograph.org.uk; http://www.pickpic.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr. com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.needpix.com.

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